Introduction

9. The "God of the Gaps"

OK, so now we know how you're supposed to disprove evolution. Why don't creationists do that, you ask? Obviously, because they can't. The evidence they seek is well-defined and would be fairly easy to obtain, but it does not appear to exist. Rather than concede that the biosystem looks suspiciously like an evolved system, they simply ignore the proper method of disproof and use an alternate method of "disproving" evolution, and that is to ask scientists to explain everything. Every single species, every single feature. They want to know how the bombardier beetle evolved its defensive spray. They want to know how sexual reproduction evolved. They want to know the complete evolutionary family tree of the first insects. They want to know how the "Cambrian Explosion" occurred. Going further back, they switch to cosmology and they want to know why the Big Bang produced a "lumpy" output which would eventually coalesce into galaxies, stars, and planets. They want to know why the Big Bang happened. Going even further back, to the point of absurdity, they want to know why anything exists at all. Any question we can't answer is presumed to prove them right, and science wrong.

Science can actually answer many of those questions, although they have a tendency to falsely declare that it can't. The phrase "Scientists have no explanation" or "The scientific literature is mysteriously silent on this subject" crop up a lot in creationist arguments even though you can often check for yourself to find that it is untrue. But it's also true that there are certain things we don't yet understand. So does this mean the creationists are right? It would, if they could explain those things for us. But despite their advertising, they can't fill those gaps. The interesting thing about creationism is that it gives you an answer, but it's an answer that nobody can understand. Does anyone understand God? Can anyone explain God's actions, abilities, motivations, or thoughts? Can anyone predict his future actions, motivations, or thoughts?

"Daddy, why didn't the scientists tell us there would be an earthquake today?"

"They didn't see it coming, honey. They couldn't see it because it was God's will."


...

"Daddy, why didn't the priest tell us there would be an earthquake today?"

Creationism relies on a double-standard. While science is expected to explain and predict everything, creationism is expected to explain and predict nothing. It need only say that God did it, and we're not supposed to point out that this merely passes the buck, "solving" a mystery by blaming it on a deity who is himself a mystery. If science does not understand something, it is perfectly logical and acceptable to say "we don't know". The fact that there are gaps in our scientific knowledge does not invalidate what we do know, or as the old saying goes, the fact that scientists don't know everything does not mean they know nothing. You can't disprove a scientific theory simply by showing that scientists don't know everything, and you can't disprove a biology theory simply by showing that scientists don't know the complete family history of all the millions of species on this Earth.

Let's look at a historical example of the "God of the Gaps" logic in action. One century ago, we understood quite a bit about physics and astronomy. We could predict planetary orbits with fairly high accuracy, we understood a lot of things about chemistry, we knew about kinematics and thermodynamics. But we just couldn't figure out where the Sun was getting all of its power. Chemical burning couldn't explain it: the fuel would run out too quickly. Conversion of gravitational potential energy into light couldn't explain it: that potential energy wouldn't last long enough either. If we used the "God of the Gaps" logic, then we would have been forced to conclude that God was producing this energy. How does God produce the energy? We don't know. Why does God produce the energy? We don't know. How much energy can God produce? We don't know. Does God require fuel? We don't know. But it's better to have an answer than nothing, right? Well, no, because it's not a real answer. Of course, today we know that the Sun is powered by nuclear fusion, but at the time, the logical and correct answer was "we don't know", not "science has no answer so God must be doing it".

The "God of the Gaps" argument is, at heart, nothing more than a logical fallacy. It does not follow logically from a mystery that God must be responsible, because that does not explain anything. You can't use a mystery to explain a mystery. Even if creationists weren't lying about the size of the gaps in our knowledge, their logic would still be completely invalid.


Continue to 10. A Question of Philosophy

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